Avoiding One-Word Answers

sullenkidI don’t know about you, but when I come home from a long day at work, I like to change my clothes, grab a handful of almonds (or cookies if it’s been a particularly challenging day), and curl up with the newspaper. I’d rather not answer a whole lot of questions until I’ve had a chance to decompress. I think many children may feel something similar after a long day at school.

And there may be other reasons why kids are monosyllabic. It could be that they’ve been answering questions all day and now want a break, or that they’re so hungry and tired that one word is all they can muster. Perhaps they’ve got a lot on their mind, and the question you asked isn’t interesting to them. Or maybe they just don’t feel like talking, but want your quiet company.

Of course, it’s impossible to know if your child won’t tell you, which is the Catch-22. Here are a few tips that have worked for me over the years with my children, and with child patients who are sometimes reluctant to volunteer information. I can’t guarantee that they will always work, or work for every child. Only you know your child well enough to predict which, if any, of these approaches may help you and your child have more after school conversation.

  • A hungry child is often a silent child. If he’s running on empty, it’s hard to summon the energy to tell stories about school. It may be best to hold all questions until he’s sitting down with a snack.
  • As your day rolls along, try collecting small stories that may interest or amuse your children, like something mischievous the dog did during the day, a funny exchange with a neighbor, or your worry about almost running out of gas. Then, when you reunite with your child, start with a story of your own. This kind of modeling often helps get the ball rolling, and means that you are offering something before asking for something.

Get more tips on avoiding one-word answers at The Family Dinner Project

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